6 Feb: Research – Zarina Bhimji

I first came across her work when I visited the Whitechapel Gallery in November 2012. To now go back and spend time looking at it in closer detail has been exciting and inspirational.  She works in different media from installations to photography.

She was born in 1963 in Uganda with Asian parents, and came to the UK when Idi Amin expelled all the Ugandan Asians in 1972. Her first film Out of Blue (2002)  was made with 16mm film and was an exploration of what was left behind, old crumbling buildings with traces of human habitation.

zarina_bhimji_outofblue_still_0 zarina room

This was followed by Waiting (2007).  She is now using 35mm film and although there is some human activity in part of the film, he is given minimal importance whilst she concentrates on the activity and the textures around him.

11_BhimjiShe seems to be on a search into her past and her most recent film Yellow Patch (2011) was also made with 35mm film.  The audio tracks give some clues to the visual images with a mix of ambient sounds, music and radio broadcasts from the time the buildings were occupied.  These give an almost ghost-like impression of human activity and a second layer of narrative to the film.

Zarina Bhimji Yellow-Patch--007

Zarina Bhimji

There is very slow panning of scenes and time spent still merely regarding what is in front of her, whether it is a muslin curtain blowing in the breeze, flaking paint, decaying edges of paper or old ropes and strings.   There is no human presence although a scene captures the beauty of a peacock amongst the desolation.   The film provides evidence of her work as a photographer through the careful composition of the shots.

She writes in her book (2012, p.23) which accompanies the Whitechapel Gallery exhibition about, ” … the sensitivity to the way in which painful experiences resist language”, and further states that, “I am interested in the tension between lyrical, intense beauty, and sociopolitical language.”  TJ Demos adds (p.27), that “the individual details of her films are essential in trying to speak of the unspeakable that wants to be spoken.”   Her work is described as a “post documentary approach that relinquishes information and factual presentation in order to probe the poetic and aesthetic elements of colour, texture and rhythm.” (p.11)

It was not possible to download her films but they can be viewed on her website at: http://www.zarinabhimji.com

The work has led me to much thought about how to relate this approach to my own work and the fact that I need to take everything down to a slower more contemplative level.

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